The Sport of Fishing in the Spring LOC Derby
Fishing Virgin/Times Sports Writer admits… “Okay, I’m hooked”
by Wade Holdraker
I’m not a fisherman. In fact, I’m probably the worst outdoorsman in Wayne County. I’m not a hunter, I don’t fish and outdoor camping is really not my thing. Most kids have memories of fishing with their dad or grandpa and catching their first fish. Yeah….not me. My dad is the farthest thing from an outdoorsman you’ll ever see. The last time I went fishing, I really had no desire to catch a fish, so I dropped my lure about 6 inches into the water and pretended to be unlucky all day. So, when I received a call from Capt. Jerry Snyder in late March wondering if I would like to join him on his charter boat to cover the Spring LOC Derby, I must admit I started regretting taking on the task of covering Wayne County sports.
The Lake Ontario counties annually host a series of the world’s best freshwater tournaments know as the LOC Derby. Thousands of anglers hit the lake each year in pursuit of thousands of dollars in cash prizes for salmon, lake trout, brown trout and rainbow/steelhead trout.
The 2011 Spring LOC Derby (April 29th to May 8th) is the unofficial kickoff to the Lake Ontario trout and salmon fishing season. The Derby awards $34,650 in cash prizes with $12,500 going to the lucky angler entering the largest trout or salmon.
After speaking with Captain Jerry over the phone, I could hear his passion for fishing, and the excitement in his voice when I agreed to cover the event. After going back and forth on dates that would and wouldn’t work for me, we scheduled one for the beginning of May.
Fast-forward to the beginning of last week. Captain Jerry called to remind me of the upcoming fishing trip, at which point I realized I would be joining him on the voyage a day after one of my friend’s bachelor parties. Great planning on my part! He let me know the boat would be leaving from Pultneyville at 6am sharp on Sunday.
As the week went on, the reality of being on a boat in Lake Ontario for 10 hours after a night of celebrating with friends, really started sinking in. As much as I wanted to cancel, I called Captain Jerry mid-week to let him know I was still planning to join them.
To the Captain’s and my surprise, I made it on time Sunday morning. When I arrived at the 31-foot Baha fishing vessel, I was greeted by Ed and Colleen Pawlowski, a married couple from Philadelphia who had chartered the boat back in November as a Christmas gift. I also met first-mate Tim Barber. Everyone seemed excited and ready to begin the day.
Captain Jerry arrived holding a gas tank, and introduced himself explaining that the voyage would start out by helping a fellow fisherman who ran out of gas on the lake.
Even though I was told prime fishing of Brown Trout usually happens in the early morning hours, when the water temperature is clearer and the waters are calmer, Jerry’s most important mission was to help a stranded boater. He explained that it’s the responsibility of a Captain to assist other boaters in need, because “you never know when that stranded fisherman will be you.”
After spending about a half hour assisting the disabled vessel, we finally began our fishing excursion.
We started by trolling the waters near Ginna Nuclear Power Plant. The Captain told me this was a good spot for fisherman searching for Brown Trout near the shores of Lake Ontario.
While waiting for the first bite, the Captain and couple told me of their fortune a day earlier. They caught almost 30 fish the first day and had an active morning with 4 lines all hitting at the same time.
First-time charter boat fisherman Colleen had caught an 11.6-pound Brown Trout the day before. The fish was weighed at the end of the day and was good enough to put her in 6th place on the second day of the derby.
Colleen’s husband Ed has been coming to Lake Ontario for over 14 years with his dad, his uncle and a group of family and friends each summer.
Last year, Ed caught a 36-pound King Salmon on Captain Jerry’s “Dandy Eyes” Charter. Colleen, who had constantly heard stories from Ed’s fishing experiences on Lake Ontario, decided to surprise Ed with a spring fishing trip for Christmas. The trip would not only be a great way to spend time fishing with each other for the first time, but would be the first time they have been able to get away since their daughter was born 2 years ago.
We started the day by doing some shoreline fishing for Brown Trout. Before I could even grab my paper to take some notes, the fish started biting. Everyone (except myself) grabbed poles reeling in their first catch of the day. Some nice Brown Trout were caught and released. During the LOC Derby, only fish over a certain weight (trout and walleye must weigh a minimum of 10 pounds and salmon 20 pounds) can be entered in the tournament, so these fish were released to assist in their growth for another season.
After our initial flurry of bites, the wind picked up, the water clarity changed and the bites came a little slower. This gave me time to talk and learn from the extremely knowledgeable and experienced Captain.
Jerry has been fishing in Lake Ontario since he was 10 Years old. He started on his father’s boat the “Sea-Ducer” as a mate. Over the years – fishing from the first ice out until hunting season begins in the fall; Jerry has become an expert on fishing the waters of Lake Ontario. During the fall of 2004 he passed his Captains test and received his license in July of 2005. With help from his sponsors he was able to furnish his boat with stateof- the-art equipment. The team at Traxstech supplied the rod holders and stationary mounted equipment on his boat, Yeck supplies his lures, Torpido Diver his swivels and Off-Shore Tackle the releases. With his boat “Dandy Eyes” fully equipped, he was ready to “troll”.
With over 20 years experience on the lake, the captain said it’s his goal to “provide guests with the most enjoyable fishing excursion while ensuring their safety.”
I told Captain Jerry that my fishing abilities and experience were non-existent. Both he and the Pawlowski’s were determined to include me in their experience and change my feelings about fishing. About an hour later, one of the lines hit and Ed told me to grab the reel. I did so as Captain Jerry, first-mate Tim and Ed gave me lessons on the fly. As I reeled in the fish (a record-setting 40-pound Brown Trout), my fortune and fame as Lake Ontario’s premier angler, faded away as the fish escaped the hook just before they were about to net it.
They laughed when I told all on the boat that I would report that the 4-pound Brown Trout I let slip away was a 40-pound monster trout. Hey, we can’t be sure since we never got it on the boat. Someday someone will catch that fish when it has become the largest trout in Lake Ontario and they should thank me because I let it get away.
So my first attempt was a failure. But everyone on the boat convinced me it was nothing I did wrong and I should give it another shot. About 45 minutes later after Ed and Colleen had caught a few more fish, I gave it another shot. Success. I reeled in a Brown Trout. I couldn’t tell you how big…I was just excited to catch my first fish. I got high fives from everyone on the boat and Colleen took my picture, so I would have proof. They asked me if I wanted to keep it, but I could imagine the roars of laughter that would come from my fishing friends after mounting a 4 pound fish and displaying it with pride in my home. So I decided to release it.
Ed wanted his wife to experience catching all types of fish and Captain Jerry and First-Mate Tim obliged suggesting lures to use and which waters they should navigate to make it happen. At one point we joked that Jerry was like a short-order line cook taking the next food order. Ed would request a fish and it seemed that with the help of the Jerry and Tim, Colleen would catch it. When we moved a little further off shore and we caught everything….Lake Trout, Brown Trout, King Salmon, and Steelheads.
During the 10-hour trip, we fished, told stories, and I learned everything I ever needed to know about fishing Lake Ontario from Captain Jerry – all while having a great time on the water.
I would like to thank Ed and Colleen Pawlowski for allowing me to take part in their fishing vacation and sharing their catches with me. Not only did they share their fish with me, but I got to share the day with a really great couple.
Also, I cannot thank Captain Jerry and his first mate Tim enough for inviting me to take part in the Derby, teaching me and making me feel comfortable as a first-time fisherman.
Jerry told me many of his bookings were with people who had booked with him in the past. After only spending a day with him, it was easy for me to see why people keep coming back. As Ed Pawlowski had told me earlier while the captain was changing lures, he is unlike other captains who just drive the boat. He teaches, and helps with every aspect of the fishing trip and makes it an experience.
For me, a trip to cover a story I had dreaded just 10 hours before, became an experience I won’t soon forget.
If you missed the Spring LOC Derby, there is also a summer (June 18th – July 17th) and fall (August 19th – September 5th) derby you can enter. For more info, check out www.loc.org or contact (888) 733-5246, (585) 545-4247 (local) or 585-545-4226(fax).
The Spring LOC Derby ends on Sunday, May 8th. Results from the tournament will be posted in next week’s edition of the Times.
Whether you are a first-time fisherman or a seasoned angler, I highly recommend booking a trip with Captain Jerry on his “Dandy Eyes” charter boat for a real fishing experience. You can contact him at: (585) 261-4929 or find out more information on his website dandyeyes.com.